Although living in the information age has its benefits, one of the drawbacks from a health and fitness standpoint is that we are often overwhelmed with conflicting ideas that make it difficult for us to separate facts from fallacies.
Poliquin Group is dedicated to providing effective, practical, and researched-based advice to help you achieve your goals. Want to lose weight? Build muscle? Jump higher? Run faster? It’s all there in the hundreds of articles published on our website.
To get you started on developing a sound weight training program that will help you achieve your goals, here are 67 general rules about program design pulled from our bank of articles to make your programs better:
1. All programs have both negative and positive features, no matter how well designed or specific they are.
2. Although it is interesting to examine the training programs of elite athletes, it is unlikely that such programs would be appropriate for the average trainee.
3. Aerobic work places considerable stress on the adrenal system, and the effects can significantly hamper progress in strength training.
4. It is critical to pay attention to nutrition and supplementation to augment work capacity. Such nutritional support translates into the ability to handle greater average loads when performing multiple sets.
5. One of the keys to optimal recovery is a post-workout nutrition, which requires carbohydrates to lower cortisol levels and increase muscle glycogen.
6. Depending on the training intensity and the conditioning level of the athlete, 48 to 96 hours of recovery are necessary for tissue repair and protein synthesis.
7. If the training stimuli are too far apart, the overcompensation will fade away and strength levels will eventually return to previous levels.
8. If training stimuli are too close, overcompensation will not be allowed to happen and a drop in strength can result.
9. The effectiveness of any program is a function of the degree that it challenges your body. Every time you repeat a training program, it becomes less effective.
10. Beginners may be able to show improvement for several months on a fixed weight training program.
11. Unchanging training routines lead to overuse injuries.
12. The athlete’s sport influences how many exercises per training session are necessary.
13. After a warm-up, the strength training session should last only one hour.
14. Muscles that are predominately slow twitch, such as the soleus, respond better to more-frequent training.
15. Muscles that are predominately fast twitch, such as the hamstrings respond better to less-frequent training.
16. It’s crucial to regularly (every 2-4 weeks) change acute program variables that include frequency, exercise selection, number of exercises, order of exercises, length of training session, number of repetitions, number of sets, length of rest periods, and the speed of muscle contraction during an exercise.
17. Tests of power such as the vertical jump and standing long jump have been used to ensure that the training program is not adversely affecting speed.
18. You must have a clear goal in mind before making the exercise selection.
19. While keeping in mind the risk of developing structural imbalances, it is important to select exercises for the muscle groups specifically involved in achieving training goals.
20. Outside of powerlifting and weightlifting, the only other sports where one can truly reach specificity of strength training is gymnastics.
21. Perform plyometric exercises first in a workout, when the nervous system is fresh.
22. Compound exercises with a high technical component, such as the Olympic lifts and their variations, generally should be performed first in a session (or after plyometrics).
23. A chain is only as strong as its weakness link, and the exercise order should be arranged to correct these structural imbalances.
24. The largest muscle groups should be performed near the beginning of a workout.
25. Many complex exercises involve a large amount of muscle mass, and as such they serve as an effective warm-up for other exercises.
26. Heavy dumbbell work is more demanding than barbell work.
27. In contrast to most machines that offer only a few variations in performance, barbell and dumbbells exercises can accommodate endless variations of execution.
28. Exercises such as power cleans are good choices for improving explosive strength,
29. The Olympic lifts are poor choices for strength-endurance training because it’s difficult to maintain optimal technique with high reps.
30. Elite athletes need to change their exercises more frequently because their bodies adapt so quickly.
31. As a general guideline, exercises should be changed every six workouts for optimal progress.
32. Paired muscle groups should be designed in opposite motor patterns. For example, triceps exercises are alternated with biceps.
33. If maximal strength or speed-strength is the goal of the workout, two to seven different exercises should be performed per workout.
34. Sports that are characterized by applying force at various angles require more exercises to cover a greater variety of joint angles and force curves. An example of such a sport is judo.
35. For athletic performance, most closed kinetic chain exercises are superior to open chain exercises. For example, a squat (closed chain) would be more effective than a leg extension (open chain).
36. It’s important to be aware of the stresses involved in one’s sport when selecting exercises. For example, it may not be wise for a gymnast or figure skater, athletes who perform high-stress jumps as part of their regular training, should not perform depth jumps as this additional work could easily result in overuse injuries.
37. The larger the mass involved in an exercise, the higher the metabolic cost.
38. The muscles most used in a sport should get priority during workouts and be developed in the work angles, planes, and directions of the movements encountered in a sport.
39. The selection
of reps influences all other components of a workout, such as sets, tempo, rest intervals and even exercise selection.
40. The number of reps dictates the load (i.e., weight) used.
41. Percentages systems frequently lock you into using specific weights, regardless of what you’re capable of lifting that day.
42. How much weight (load) is lifted determines how much tension is imposed upon a muscle, and how much tension is imposed upon a muscle determines the strength training response.
43. When writing workouts, first determine the desired training effect and then select a repetition bracket that suits that goal.
44. Low-rep workouts produce greater gains in maximal strength; high-rep workouts produce greater gains in strength-endurance.
45. The development
of maximal strength is best accomplished by using loads representing 70 to 100 percent of maximum.
46. Fast-twitch fibers respond better to low reps and heavy weight. Slow-twitch fibers respond better to higher reps and thus, relatively lighter weights.
47. As trainees get stronger, their neurological efficiency changes and as such they need to shift toward using weights that are closer to their one-rep maxes.
48. Eccentric work is best accomplished with sets of 1 to 6 reps.
49. If an exercise involves multiple joints in a complex skill, such as the Olympic lifts, high reps will bring about undesired technical and motor-learning changes.
50. For relative strength development, normally the athlete utilizes 1-5 repetitions per set.
51. With added-on chains, the time under tension will be longer; thus the number of optimal reps must be less.
52. There is an inverse relationship between the number of sets and the number of reps. When using low reps, do a high number of sets; when using high reps, do a low number of sets.
53. The number of sets is subject to the Law of Diminishing Returns in that the relative reward for every set diminishes with each additional set.
54. One or 2 sets are usually enough for beginners as a training stimulus, but after 6-12 workout sessions the coach must increase an athlete’s volume of training because the muscles will have adapted.
55. Sometimes there is a need for specialized work that will warrant a greater-than-normal number of sets.
56. One way to get more exercises into a program without a significant investment of time is to perform tri-sets, which entail performing three different exercises for the same bodypart with minimal rest between sets.
57. In a phase where you need specialization for a “lagging” bodypart, particularly for the development of hypertrophy, up to four exercises for a specific muscle can be performed.
58. If an athlete has not fully recovered from a workout, first reduce the volume (number of sets), not the intensity.
59. Rest intervals need to be prescribed based on the training intent, such as relative strength, functional hypertrophy, hypertrophy, and strength endurance.
60. The larger the muscle mass recruited, the longer rest interval.
61. The greater the range of motion of an exercise, the longer rest interval.
62. The bigger and stronger the trainee, the longer the rest interval.
63. Exercises of a highly coordinative nature, such as the power snatch, need far longer rest intervals than simple isolation exercises such as rotator cuff work.
64. Supersetting antagonistic pairs of muscles enables you to double the workload per training unit without reducing the intensity of the workout.
65. Some exercises by their very nature must always be performed at high speeds, such as the Olympic lifts.
66. A gifted athlete can triple his or her strength over seven years of continuous strength training. However, the progress is not linear and the rate of improvement decreases each year.
67. In cases of rehabilitation, such as post-surgery, training frequencies of five to six times a week are well tolerated.
Although there are considerably more training rule that should be followed in designing workouts, these 67 should get you off to a good start in helping you design the best workouts for you.